Get More Out Of Your Trainer

Whether you’re a long time client, or just had your very first session, why not maximize your time? At Whole Body Fitness we endeavor to help each client get results. While our amazing trainers work hard to enable each client is successful, a lot of it depends on you, the client.

Here are 7 tips to maximize your fitness and personal training experience.

1. Have Clear Goals
What and Why. It’s important to know what you are working for and why you are here. Is it to stay in shape and accomplish your daily activities pain free? Is it to be pushed like an athlete and build muscle? Perhaps you’d like to lose weight and lower your cholesterol levels.

Regardless, your goals should be attainable and need to be discussed with your trainer and/or nutritionist. If you are told your goal is unrealistic, don’t despair.  Your trainer and/or nutritionist is there to provide you with professional guidance, and can help you focus on a goal that is attainable.

Setting goals exponentially propels your success in the gym. Visualizing yourself accomplishing these goals can help you commit to them even further.

2. Be Vocal
Communication is crucial. Don’t be afraid to speak up! While Personal Trainers can be very perceptive, they are not mind readers.  Speak your truth. That means being honest about an injury. Speaking up if you feel you’re being worked too hard or not hard enough. Being open and honest about your motivation levels, needing a new goal, etc.

Your trainer wants you to have a positive experience and suffering in silence helps no one. Clear the air so you can keep moving in the right direction.

3. Respect the Time
Show up on time and be focused while you’re there. This can be extremely challenging. Every minute counts in a 45-minute session. Arriving even 5 minutes late can throw off your trainers programming for you. Checking email, visiting with others in your group, and answering calls and texts, can mean you miss important instruction from your trainer.
This is time for you, and your health and fitness goals. Distractions can limit your productivity, motivation, and can lead to injury as well. Devote this time to your health and make the most out of it by being 100% in the moment.

4. Be Honest
Lying slows your progress. It’s hard to manage a clients program when there’s no transparency. Sure, your trainer knows you well enough to see that you didn’t eat breakfast before coming, or that your shoulder pain is back although you say it isn’t. 

By claiming to be eating better or drinking less than you actually are, you’re bound to be frustrated that you aren't reaching your goals. If you’re in pain, hiding that injury could lead to a much longer recovery.  Trust that you’re in good hands and remember your trainers want you to succeed. Our trainers are still able to program challenging workouts around injuries. Be open. Only then can your trainer can be honest with you about the results you can expect.

5. Be Mindful
Put your heart into it. Wanting to have a good workout comes from your mindset. Your attitude is just as much fuel for your success as your nutrition. Make the most out of your time with a professional by showing up ready to work!

Focus on the reasons you came, why you’re there, why your hired a personal trainer, and what your goals are.

Sometimes a personal mantra such as “I’m here, I’m ready, I’m all in!” can help you get in the right mindset before your workout even starts, and remind you why you’re there to begin with.

6. Manage the Other 23
Your personal trainer typically sees you a few hours a week. That’s all they truly have control over. What you do outside the gym will have a much greater effect on your progress than the efforts you make in the gym. Whether that is a positive or negative result is up to you. The negatives outside the gym will always outweigh the positives in the gym.

Ask yourself; do you want to spin the tires or actually go somewhere?

7. Ask for Homework
Make the most of your off day! Many clients exercise on the days they aren’t in the gym, or jump in an extra group class.
You hired trainers to be motivators, but you are the one putting in the work! Is your goal to have more glut definition? Do you need more posture work?
Ask your trainer what series of exercises you could do on your off day to work toward your goal outside the gym.

No More Fitness Excuses

Don’t hit the snooze button on your fitness goals. Here are 17 of the most common obstacles to exercising — and expert advice on how to overcome them.

We all know we’re supposed to exercise. There are so many good reasons! More strength and stamina. More energy. A sleeker, leaner physique. A longer, happier life.
And yet, when the alarm goes off for that early-morning run, or quitting time rolls around and kickboxing class beckons, it’s always easier to think of a reason not to go: No time. No childcare. No energy. No motivation.
Longtime exercisers know that the additional energy exercise provides makes it well worth the time and effort they expend — and that before long, that charged-up postworkout feeling can become a powerful motivator in itself.
So why do we let so many things — real-life obstacles as well as imagined excuses — get in our way?
“There are lots of reasons to not exercise — including social, cultural, financial, and time limitations,” says sports psychologist Michelle Cleere, PhD, author of From Here to There: A Simple Blueprint for Women to Achieve Peak Performance in Sports and Business. Still, she notes, “it’s what’s behind these reasons that really makes it hard to exercise: worries, doubt, fears, lack of confidence.”
None of us needs another sales pitch on the value of exercise. But we could all use more practical strategies on how to squeeze that workout in when it would be easier not to.
Here are 17 of the most common reasons people offer for bailing on their workouts — including lack of time and lack of confidence — and expert advice for overcoming them.
Don’t see your personal favorite excuse here? Send it to us at and we’ll tackle it in the future.

People sometimes assume that a workout has to happen in a certain place, at a certain time, and for a certain number of minutes in order to count. This isn’t true. “Some of the most fun training sessions my clients and I have done are under 30 minutes,” says fitness trainer Jen Comas Keck, NASM, cofounder of “Set up a fast-paced circuit, keep your rest periods short, and you can get in and out in limited time.”
For days when you’re really pressed, keep gym clothes at work and a few pieces of equipment — a suspension trainer, some bands, a kettlebell or two — at home so you can squeeze in a workout even when you can’t make it to the gym. A 10-minute circuit (continuously rotating sets of, say, 10 pushups, 20 squats, and 12 lunges on each leg, resting minimally between sets) is far better than no workout at all.

Steady-state cardio canimprove the health of your heart, and some people find it meditative and relaxing. But for many others, it’s a time-consuming, pain-inducing bore.
If you fall into the boredom camp, center your workouts on strength training, and add high-intensity, short-duration intervals for a cardio effect.
Sprints, jumping rope, kettlebell swings, and rope slams lend themselves well to high-intensity training. Build up to eight to 10 intervals of 30 to 45 seconds each, either between sets of other exercises in a strength workout, or with a 90-second rest between repetitions. Looking for more ideas? Check out “Three-Speed Cardio“.

If you’ve never set foot in a health club before, it’s easy to assume that they’re just for the über-fit. Take a walk-through during peak hours, however, and you’ll likely see a diverse cross-section of beginners, intermediates, and advanced exercisers, all building their fitness chops. And many of them had to overcome the exact same resistance to get there.
“Everyone at the gym is there to improve their health and feel better,” says Keck. “And we all have a right to be there.” So don’t get hung up on how you think you should be. Just make peace with where you are, and enjoy the journey.

So don’t get hung up on how you think you should be. Just make peace with where you are, and enjoy the journey.

It also pays to remember that we’re all a little self-focused, especially during our “me” time at the gym. “I can assure you nobody is paying attention to what you’re doing,” says Keck. “They’re too busy worrying about themselves!”

While an injury is good reason to use caution, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to curtail your workouts. “There’s always a way to exercise,” says Cleere.
Avoid anything that causes pain in the injured area, and do more of what you can do comfortably. When you have lower-back pain, you’re usually best off avoiding movements where you twist, bend to the side, or load the spine significantly — including heavy lower-body moves like squats and deadlifts. (Seeking advice on dealing with back issues? See “Back in Trouble“.)
If you have painful knees, skip exercises requiring your quads to do lots of work (such as lunges and leg extensions) and double down on hip-extension moves like Swiss-ball leg curls. Cranky shoulders? Don’t press anything overhead or in front of you, and focus on back exercises, particularly rowing, instead.
For acute injuries, Billy Anderson, Master Personal Trainer at Life Time Fitness in Eden Prairie, Minn., advises clients to simply “accept the limitation” and move on. Even if you have a sprained ankle, he points out, you can still do exercises for your upper body and the noninjured leg. If your physician clears you for activity, you can work with a limited range of motion in the injured area and gradually increase it as your symptoms improve. In most cases, a moderate amount of safe movement aids in recovery and reduces discomfort.

The prospect of lunging, twisting, and downward-dogging in a room full of strangers can intimidate even the most enthusiastic of would-be yoginis. To make your initiation into the namaste crowd easier, Keck suggests, “find a beginner’s class, and set up your mat at the back of the room. You might also recruit a buddy to come along. Everything is a little less scary with a friend.”
Still gun-shy? Remember that yoga practitioners — newbies to experts alike — are rarely there to judge their fellow students. The culture of yoga is meant to be a gentle and accepting one. So go get your OM on.

Images of shredded, flat-abbed fitness models are everywhere in popular media, but that aesthetic — often achieved through a combination of extreme dieting, short-term dehydration, and aggressive photo retouching — may not be a particularly realistic or worthwhile goal for most people.

Rather than focusing on achieving a particular appearance, set attainable fitness-oriented goals that reflect your current lifestyle and abilities. Focus less on how your body looks than on what it can do. Set your sights on the regular, daily actions you can pursue to become your healthiest, strongest, most body-confident self.
And remember, athletic bodies come in many shapes and sizes. Check out the differing physiques of competitive swimmers, marathoners, and weightlifters: They look entirely different, and yet each is at the pinnacle of fitness for his or her particular sport.

Fatigue can be due to many factors. Chief among them are poor sleep and poor nutrition, which often play roles in the same vicious cycle.
“Study after study has shown that poor sleep adversely affects appetite and food intake,” says ISSA elite trainer Angelo Poli of Chico, Calif. Being short on shut-eye can make you hungrier for processed carbs and other foods of limited nutritional value, which can undermine your energy levels. This combination has a direct negative effect on your desire to exercise and the efficacy of your workouts — and can, in turn, create additional sleep disruptions.
Consider making sleep nonnegotiable. Set a bedtime you can stick to, and create rituals that help you unwind, such as taking a warm bath and setting aside electronic devices. If sleep still eludes you, talk to a medical practitioner about testing to rule out certain sleep disorders.
On the dietary front, eating too close to bedtime can lead to sleepless nights, as can choosing foods that are difficult to digest. Food intolerances can profoundly undermine your energy and make you feel chronically sleepy. Have a health professional evaluate your diet, if necessary, to determine if food might be the source of your fatigue.

“If you have a fever or runny nose, or are otherwise in the acute stages of illness, stay out of the gym,” says Poli. “You’re likely to prolong your illness and may make someone else sick.”
Short of that, though, you’re probably OK to do at least a light workout when you’re under the weather. “Your aerobic capacity may be a little down, but lifting weights and light cardio are fine as long as you don’t go overboard,” he says.
Sometimes, the immune-system boost you receive from moderate exercise might even help you feel better. A 2009 study by University of Illinois researchers found that moderate exercise helped fight off viral respiratory infection better than either complete rest or intense exercise.

The first step to overcoming this obstacle is simply recognizing that our bodies were designed to move and to feel good in motion. Exercise can and should be fun. In fact, for an exercise plan to be effective and sustainable, it has to be enjoyable.
Once you’re open to that possibility, the next step is to figure out what’s fun for you.
Some people love to run and lift heavy weights, while others prefer Rollerblading and trapeze classes. Open your mind to nontraditional activities — such as a half hour at the trampoline park or playing kickball on a rec league — and you may discover an activity that gets your heart rate up and puts a smile on your face.
The key to finding your passion is trial and error. You can test-drive many activities for little cost by dropping in at your local gym or fitness studio (many offer free introductory classes) or by renting a bike, paddleboard, snowshoes, or other equipment for a small fee at your local park.
Discover activities you love, and you’re much more likely to stick to them.

Consider rewriting that statement: You don’t know how to exercise yet. In other words, you are learning. Which, by the way, is how everyone starts.
You can pull great workout ideas from magazines, books, and websites (check out our collection at “Move“). You might also try fitness DVDs, which you can buy online or borrow from your local library, or hit YouTube for videos demonstrating key moves and form pointers.
If you’re a health-club member, consider trying out a group fitness class, or enlist a trainer to help you learn some basics. Adopt a beginner’s mind: Decide not to be intimidated by what you don’t yet know. Just start where you are, and over time you’ll gain both skill and confidence.

Let go of your guilt. First, the few hours you invest in your workouts will help you show up as a better, healthier, more energetic parent. Second, being a regular exerciser with the discipline to carry out a self-care plan makes you a far better role model for your kids to look up to — and quite possibly a nicer parent to be around.

Get strategic. If you have a partner, the two of you can set up a schedule that lets you swap exercise and parenting stints. No dice? See if you can find another parent who wants to trade an hour or so of babysitting for “me time.” This arrangement has the added advantage of breaking up the day-to-day routine of caring for a young child and giving kids some social time with children their own age.
Increasingly, health clubs offer onsite childcare — and even activity classes for kids — either as part of your membership or for a nominal fee. If you’re a gym-goer, check your options at the front desk. And if your gym doesn’t offer these services, consider switching to another facility.
Another workaround is to exercise with your kids. If you have small children, tuck them into a jogging stroller and head out for a walk or run. At the park or playground, create a circuit that you can do while your kids play: pushups and step-ups on a park bench, pull-ups on the monkey bars, sprints across the length of the field. Or try a game of tag with your kids. This way, everyone gets a workout, and you’ll help instill good habits that will last your kids a lifetime.

Find a workout buddy, preferably someone who has similar goals and taste in fitness activities. Enlist a friend, or work through a social group such as You can also join an exercise class, where high-energy instructors provide guidance on workout techniques, and the group atmosphere keeps you motivated.

Make a point of seeking out environmentswhere you have enough privacy to feel comfortable. Dance, lift, or do calisthenics in your living room. Bike some quiet park trails. Or hit the gym during off-peak hours.
And on the occasions when you just can’t seem to escape the madding crowd, pop in your headphones (the universal symbol for “leave me alone”) and get lost in your favorite songs or a terrific audiobook.
Focus on yourself and your goals, and you’re less likely to be bothered by the presence of others.

Weigh the relative costs of powering your exercise habit against the costs of being less fit and healthy than you want to be. Basic memberships at many clubs amount to less than a monthly cable (or daily latte) bill. If you work for a large company, you may get a fee discount, or your health insurance may give you a rebate for hitting the club regularly.
If a gym membership simply isn’t in the cards, there are plenty of other budget-friendly options out there. Running and walking require little investment beyond a pair of sneakers. Bodyweight exercises require no equipment at all, can be performed almost anywhere, and can be scaled to your goals and fitness level. Start with squats, lunges, and pushups. Add some squat jumps, jumping lunges, and plyo pushups for a cardio boost. Work in some burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, and plank variations, and you’ve got the most affordable workout program around.

Gyms offer locker rooms as a convenience to members who like to go right to work or a social engagement after they exercise. But you never have to set foot inside one if you don’t want to. Just go to the gym in your workout gear, lock all your valuables in your car, place your car key in a zippered pocket, and you’re off to the races. Afterward, motor home and shower there.

If you’re stressed out, undernourished, or exhausted, it can be hard to summon the motivation for anything, workouts included. But if you have a specific resistance to activity, there may be a deeper issue, such as body-image or exercise-related anxiety, that’s holding you back.
It can help to get in touch with your bigger “why” — the reasons you care about getting healthier and fitter, or why you feel compelled to take better care of yourself in general.

“Motivation is mostly a question of getting in touch with what you care about in life,” says Anderson, who, in addition to being a trainer, is also a leadership coach.
Your doctor may tell you to exercise to lower your blood pressure, for example, but until lowering blood pressure has meaning for you — because you want to stick around for your partner and kids, for example — the inspirational value of that objective will be limited.
It can also help to connect your fitness ambitions with bigger life goals, like being able to keep up with your kids, completing an active adventure, or showing up more fully for your work and relationships. From there, Anderson says, “the practice of fitness will become intimately connected with those reasons.” And accordingly, it will become much easier — and more rewarding — to embrace.

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4 Ways to Stay on Your Diet Without Giving Up Your Social Life

This article originally posted on The Huffington Post. Written by Angelo Poli

Dinner parties, dances, and date nights can add up to disaster if you’re not ultra savvy. One of the most infamous gripes I hear is feeling like you have to choose between sticking to your diet and causing a scene at parties.

You’ve worked hard to get yourself in shape! Don’t assume amnesty to the oldest of influences — peer pressure — just because you’re out of high school. The desire to remain inconspicuous in a group is one of the most common reasons people break their diet. If you’re often social and want to keep your Vogue (or GQ) physique, you’ll need to know the tricks. Here are four real world tips I give to my high profile clientele:

1) Eat First, Eat Twice: This is your most important strategy. Eat your planned lunch, dinner, whatever, BEFORE you arrive. The biggest miscalculation dieters make is eating less before arriving in an effort to offset extra calories at the event. To quote a favorite actress of mine, “Big mistake... huge.”

While most events will have at least “something” that’s on your diet, no one wants to walk around with half the party’s lettuce wraps on their plate... awkward.

Eating less before arriving means you’ll be showing up with low blood sugar and a raging appetite. You’ll eat far fewer calories if you eat a healthy meal before arriving — then eat a second light meal selected without hunger at the party.

2) Bring Alcohol: Yup, you read right. I want you to bring alcohol. If you’re a savvy dieter you’ve already figured out that hard alcohol mixed with calorie-free beverages is a dieter’s best trick. Trouble is... you never know what drinks will be served. So let’s eliminate the variable. Besides, who wants to show up for a dinner party empty handed? If it’s a more intimate party, bring your host a martini shaker and olives for a classy gift.

3) Sample, Don’t Pile: For buffet-style spreads place a small portion of several things on your plate instead of holding up the line while you figure out your best options. Being selective after you leave the buffet line will go unnoticed.

4) Ask for a To-Go Container With Your Entrée: For restaurant meals, ask your waiter to bring you a to-go box with your entrée. When it arrives you can scoop half into the container and avoid appearing as though you barely touched your meal.

Social dieters rely on real life strategies so they can keep up appearances — you can beat the system and stick to your diet, you just need to know the tricks.

The Best Workout For You

This article originally posted on The Huffington Post. Written by Angelo Poli

One occupational hazard of being in the fitness ‘industry’ (an awful term, by the way — shouldn’t fitness be free?) is that people often ask me to evaluate their workouts. “Is CrossFit good?” they’ll say. “Is yoga good? Does Pilates work?”

Look, I can wax on and on about the perks and liabilities of just about any exercise modality. I can make a case for and against nearly all of it, and usually do, given the chance. What ‘expert’ doesn’t like to drone on about his or her topic until long after everyone else at the party has gone home? We fitness nerds dream about captive audiences — especially since so few people out there really appear to be listening.

But these days I’ve decided that all my jabber might not be worth it. Not because people don’t want to know about energy systems and glute activation and the stretch-shortening cycle.

No, it’s not worth it because when it comes to movement, it’s all good. If you like taking long walks because it helps clear your head and your neighbor likes taking short sprints because she finds it invigorating, who am I to say one is right and the other is wrong?

If you’re doing any formal exercise at all, you’re okay by me. You’re already doing infinitely better than the legions of sedentary folks out there who are, unaccountably, blind and deaf to the avalanche of studies, books, TV shows, websites, et al, that have been telling us for decades that moving is, you know, good for you.

You reap something like 80 percent of the health benefits of exercise by going from completely sedentary to doing something. Say, taking a short walk a few times a week, which almost all of us can do any time, for free. So if you’re doing that, and you’re not hurting yourself, and you like it — then as far as I’m concerned, you’re golden.

Now: will that give you ripped abs and glutes as taut as volleyballs? Will those easy walks impart Herculean strength, marathon endurance or NFL-worthy strength and power? Absolutely not. To get those things — and to achieve a higher level of fitness — you’ve got to work systematically and progressively, do the right workouts, eat the right meals, and so on. Heck, you might even consult a fitness expert or two.

But let’s not kid ourselves: Few of us really need those things. Glutes and abs and the ability to run or cycle for tens or hundreds of miles are decidedly first-world aspirations. Even if the end of the world visits us, wiping out communication, hospitals, your local big-box gym, and so on, the depth your social ties are far more likely to save you than your ropey arm muscles or sky-high V02-max.

I’m not saying don’t seek elite fitness. I’ve done so all my life and I don’t consider it time wasted any more than the concert pianist or the heart surgeon regrets his or her time in the trenches of his or her trade. And I’m not saying stop looking around for a workout you like better. I’m just saying move. Have fun at it, don’t hurt yourself, and don’t stress over it.

And while you’re at it, make some friends, too. Just in case.

The Only Strength Exercises You'll Ever Need

This article originally posted on The Huffington Post. Written by Angelo Poli

Big box gyms pride themselves on having lots of equipment — specifically, vaguely medieval-looking contraptions you strap yourself into and lift stacks of weighted bricks by pushing, pulling, squeezing, extending or flexing various parts of yourself against a platform or a lever arm.

For a newcomer to the gym, though, all that machinery can be awfully confusing. Do I get on the machine where I sit and push the pads outwards with my knees — or the one where I push them inward? Or both? And then what do I do? A person could waste a lot of time wondering such things.

The machine/free weight debate is something I’ll take up in another blog post — though I will say here that the people who modeled for all the classical statues many consider the standard for physical beauty never met a Butt-Blaster. Here instead I want to boil down strength training into five simple types of exercise you should be doing in the gym.

Here they are: plank, pull, squat, push, lunge. Do those five moves and you can go home knowing you’ve worked your entire body effectively — no innie-outie machine required.

Taking those things in the order you should do them in the gym:

• A plank is a ramrod straight top-of-a-pushup position, usually done on your elbows and held for time. Think you’re straight enough? Get in front of a mirror and you’ll see your hips are too high. Now squeeze your belly and hold it. 30 seconds too easy? Try it with one leg lifted. Still easy? Lift the opposite arm as well. If that’s easy, it may not be too late for the 2016 Olympic trials. I’ll be rooting for you.

• A pull is a move where you take hold of something and pull it towards your chest or abdomen: a row. A pulldown. A pull-up or chin-up. Often neglected, these moves — especially row variations — are a major key to improving posture and keeping your shoulders healthy. Do them.

• A squat is a squat is a squat. Gym class-style, bodyweight only, is fine, just make sure you drop down to a point where the tops of your thighs are parallel with the floor. Do it holding two dumbbells. Do it with a jump at the top. Then with a barbell on your shoulders, in front or behind your head. Good form is imperative. Get some coaching on this one from that bored-looking trainer wandering the floor. Seriously, that guy needs something to do.

• A push is anything where you... wait for it... push something away from you. (I hope you’re taking notes.) Two dumbbells overhead. One barbell while lying on your back — aka the ever-ego-boosting bench press. Yourself, off the floor, with your body straight (as in a pushup!). If you’re really diesel, try the handstand pushup.

• A lunge is a lot like a squat, only your feet are in a staggered position, one in front of the other. Do them walking, or with your feet planted, or holding light dumbbells, or your grandchild on your shoulders. Don’t let you front knee buckle inward. Keep your form tight, like a Renaissance courtier bowing to royalty.

Those five moves will do it for you. Pretty soon you’ll be able to stroll confidently past all those machines at the gym knowing that all of them are just variations on those five simple moves you’ve now mastered. See something that isn’t? You probably don’t need it. Good luck!

Make A Fitness Resolution That Sticks

This article originally posted on The Huffington Post. Written by Angelo Poli & Co-authored by Andrew Heffernan

About a zillion people make resolutions that relate to fitness around the New Year. And about three-quarters of a zillion of them don’t stick to those resolutions past six weeks. I have a few theories as to why that might be — and how you might be able to make a fitness resolution that sticks this time around.

You’ve probably seen the acronym SMART before. Originally coined in 1981 to describe the characteristics of the kind of goal you are most likely to stick to and achieve, SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.

So saying you want to “run a marathon in June” is preferable to saying you want to “get in shape.” The former is specific: You know when you’ve attained it, it’s (presumably) realistic for you, you can break it into tiny daily actions. The latter is vague: Since you don’t really know what you’re chasing (getting a six-pack? bench pressing 300? weighing 140?) you can’t really act on it.

Most articles on goal-setting stop right there. But there’s another element to the equation without which no fitness resolution is worth the paper it’s printed on. And that’s passion.

I encounter people all the time who say they want to get in shape, improve their health, energy, and outlook. Maybe they’ve even gotten a you need to lose weight speech from a doctor. They’ve been hearing it for years — and they don’t do it.

But then the epiphany happens: They meet the right girl. They decide they want to get pregnant. They get divorced or fired or hired. They see a picture of how they used to look, and decide they’re going to look that way again, no matter the cost. And a year later they’re unrecognizable.

It doesn’t matter what sparks that internal change — but it’s essential that it happens. None of my ravings about potential improvements in your metabolic rate or cardiovascular functioning or mitochondrial density are worth a hoot without it.

You can’t force this kind of epiphany, of course. But you can sit yourself down and have a good, long think about what will fire you up to get it done — not just NOW, when you have the time and energy, but in four months, when taxes are due and the kids are clamoring for attention and it’s cold outside and staying in bed for an extra hour sounds way more appealing than getting up for a 6:30 run.

Only you know what that spark is. Maybe it’s about attracting a mate or reigniting a spark in a relationship or getting a promotion or being a better parent or feeling like you did in high school or looking like a Greek statue. Maybe it involves the gym and a trainer or a fencing team or a cycling club or a rec-league basketball team. It doesn’t matter what it is — but a deep, personal, primal connection to your fitness goal is indispensable.

The rest is details.

Move More-All Day-To Get Fit

This article originally posted on The Huffington Post. Written by Angelo Poli

Co-authored by Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, co-author of The Exercise Cure, by Rodale, 2013.

One of the more interesting insights in The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner — a book about the world’s longest-living sub-populations — is physical activity is built into the everyday activities of long-living people.

This may seem like an obvious point: Of course exercise is associated with longevity. But exercise isn’t just a priority for people who live a long time — it’s part and parcel of everyday living. Maybe it should be for the rest of us as well.

I find it interesting that when my clients go on vacation — and, almost inevitably, fall off the “formal exercise” and the “strict diet” wagon in the process — they sometimes come back in better shape than when they left. When I quiz them about what they were doing on vacation that might have trumped the brilliant and well-thought-out fitness plan I’ve given them, inevitably it involves movement, and lots of it: sightseeing, shopping, hiking, scurrying here and here, from one event to another, often for eight or more hours a day.

Contrasted with their desk-bound lives at home, many of these peoples’ vacation schedules resemble an Olympic athlete’s training schedule — gym or no gym!

These people aren’t “exercising more.” They’ve simply gone to a new environment where they needed to move a lot to get through their day. And they were fitter for it.

I’m not saying you should cancel your gym membership and sightsee your life away (if only we could). Formal exercise is still the most convenient, effective choice for busy people.

But I am pointing out that a walk up the stairs here, a stroll down the block there, things that many people consider meaningless movement, can have serious ramifications for your health, well-being, and bodyweight. Probably a lot more than you think. Getting more informal moving into our days perhaps the most overlooked — yet absolutely essential — part of the health and fitness equation. Especially when you consider the oft-reported dangers of sitting.

How to do that? Take a look at your day-to-day activities and ask how you might build more movement into your life. Could you walk to the grocery store once or twice a week? Could you place a laptop on a cabinet and stand while writing? Could you go see your co-worker instead of texting or emailing? Could you meet a friend for a walk instead of a baguette and coffee? Like an investment account with compounding interest, these humble, age-old fitness tips can pay enormous dividends in the long-term. And in the short-term, they’ll stave off common sitting-related ailments like stiffness, back pain — even a lousy mood.

This is not to say don’t avail yourself of conveniences or indulgences (everyone loves baguettes). But, whenever possible, to stand up, make like a blue-zoner, and move.

The End of Fitness Plateaus!

This article originally posted on The Huffington Post. Written by Angelo Poli

Co-authored by Andrew Heffernan, co-author of The Exercise Cure (Rodale, 2013).

As a lifelong fitness enthusiast and a career fitness professional, I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go. Superslow training. Balance training. Step aerobics. Tae Bo. P90X. Spinning. Rowing. Nordic-tracking. The list goes on and on.

Ever notice, though, that these trends typically have about an eight-week shelf life?

Sure, you may see them straggling along past the eight-week mark. But how long does your average person do Step, or Zumba, or P90X?

The answer? Eight weeks. For eight weeks that’s all they’ll talk about: the new Zumba class. The new piece of exercise equipment they got for their garage that solves everything for them. You’ll probably even notice them getting slimmer or muscling up a bit. But soon enough, the talk will end. The membership will expire. The equipment will start to gather dust.

How soon? Eight weeks. You can set your watch by it.

Funny thing: Eight weeks is ALSO about how long people continue to see results from ANY exercise program. Even the spiffiest, coolest, most bang-zoom-wow program you can imagine, promoted by the slimmest, sexiest, most six-packed stud or studette in the world. That’s about how long a body can adapt to a new stimulus before you need to shake it up with something new. I’ve seen this happen over and over with my clients.

So every eight weeks, I shake things up. Radically.

You should too.

If you go to the gym, you’ve probably seen this trend at work: the guy or girl who slavishly does the same workout for years. You may have even thought to yourself, “Wow, wasn’t that guy curling or benching or squatting that same weight two years ago? Poor guy,” you think, “Spinning his wheels, going nowhere, hoping that the honeymoon phase when he was making real progress will magically come back again.”

And then you realize you’ve been doing the same thing.

But rather falling into the fitness doldrums (and getting bored, and probably taking an extended break from training) you can use this one little tidbit of fitness trivia to help you stay on a constant upward-spiral of improvement.

The solution: Every eight weeks, choose a new goal: Lose 10 pounds. Gain five pounds of muscle. Lift a Volkswagen. Run a marathon. Or just keep up with your kids. You want to make it YOUR goal, not the goal of the exercise addict next door or the infomercial yelling at you from your blurry TV screen. Make it a goal that speaks to YOU, something tangible and attainable that you’re passionate about.

If you have a longer-term goal — say, lose 50 pounds or add 100 more pounds to your bench press — break it down and attack it in eight-week chunks: Focus on building a cardiovascular base for eight weeks, then work on sprinting. Work with low reps on your strength training, then higher reps.

Maybe you need a coach to help you. Or a decent exercise manual (the book that Andrew recently co-authored, The Exercise Cure, has just such a program!). Or a knowledgeable training partner. Any way you slice it, do it, and do it hard.

For eight weeks.

Fat Anywhere But There: How to Get Rid of Cellulite

This article originally posted on The Huffington Post. Written by Angelo Poli

Few subjects have been addressed with such chronic inaccuracy as cellulite.  We’ve come such a long way in fitness, with more widely-available hard data on what works, and fewer pervasive myths, that it amazes me to find such rampant misunderstanding surrounding the causes of and remedies for cellulite. 
Cellulite, like male-pattern baldness (trust me) is genetics’ way of reminding us that life isn’t fair. People who are “pissed off” enough can get hair plugs or liposuction. But those of us who are merely “put out” — but unwilling to resort to the knife — still have some options. At least you women do. Me, I’m going to have to hope year-round hats stay in style.
Sit Still While We Vacuum Your Rump

So what doesn’t work? First off, we have topical creams and bum vibrators. These range from largely ineffective to a complete waste of time. Simple math, if these provided long-term results, no one would have cellulite. We can argue over what constitutes results, but we all know we’re not going to rub the cottage cheese off our buns.

Weight Loss, That’ll Do the Trick

The basic concept is sound — lose weight, lose the downtown dimples. You’re on the right track — losing weight is a piece of the puzzle — but it’s not indiscriminate weight loss you’re after. What you’re really looking for is your skin to press more tightly against the underlying muscle, creating enough pressure to smooth out the dimpling effect caused by any adipose tissue (fat) between the two. That’s why the appearance of cellulite is reduced while the underlying muscle is contracted or you’re bending over: Muscle tissue presses up against the layer of fat, temporarily ironing out your dimples. It’s when the muscles under the area affected by dimpling are under-developed that cellulite rears its curdy head.

What you’re really aiming for is decreased body fat and increased muscle mass around the affected area. This doesn’t mean you’ll be building big thighs or a large butt; instead view it as shifting the composition of what’s already there to a firmer, less clumpy composition. If you’re significantly overweight, then starting with weight loss is a good bet. Up your aerobics and keep your calories in check.

If you’re battling cellulite but are not significantly overweight, indiscriminate weight loss can result in a shrinking of muscle volume in the affected area. This can cause a reduction in tension between the skin and your muscle that can sometimes even make the dimpling appear worse. The trick is both to decrease body fat and increase the muscle mass around the affected areas. Since you can’t spot-reduce body fat, you’ll have to improve body composition throughout your entire body by cleaning up your diet and performing aerobics regularly. But you can spot increase muscle mass — so that means hit the weights! Work your whole body, but give special attention to building the muscle under your trouble areas.
I Thought I Was Working My Butt?  

Are you sure? You may be working the right muscle groups but the wrong muscle fibers. Muscles have different fiber types for different jobs. Slow-twitch fibers are for endurance: You use these when you walk, jog, or peddle for any extended amount of time. Training them doesn’t result in much, if any, growth and may even cause your muscles to shrink. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are for your heavy lifting and high-effort activities like sprinting. These are the fibers with the potential for the kind of growth you want. You primarily use them when the load is heavy and your effort level is high.

You can determine which type of muscle fiber you’re working by how long it takes to reach muscular fatigue. A safe bet is to select exercises that bring you to muscular fatigue in 30 seconds or less — then you know you’re hitting your fast-twitch fibers. If you’re doing hundreds of kickbacks and step ups in an hour-long aerobics class, you’re training the wrong fibers.
If you’re doing deep squats, heavy kick-backs, leg curls, and walking lunges with weights that become challenging after 8-12 repetitions, then you’re on the right track. These are some of the staples I use with my clients.

Intense exercise coupled with clean eating will take you in the right direction, but chances are you won’t see the body fat come off your trouble areas first — that’s why they’re your trouble areas. But as long as you’re seeing signs elsewhere in your physique — more definition in your arms, shoulders, and cheekbones — know that you’re on the right track. Train regularly, eat clean, and you’ll see some good results.
I’ve witnessed firsthand many females completely (yes I said completely) smooth out their lady lumps. Battling cellulite isn’t the easiest thing you’ll ever do, but you’re not doomed to spend your days at the beach hiding dimpled cheeks. As for me with my pale skin and hairless dome, all I can do is re-apply sun screen and hope for shade.

For more by Angelo Poli, click here.

For more on fitness and exercise, click here.

Dieting Through The Decades: The History Of Weight Loss

What we choose to eat isn't simply about filling our bellies; it's an expression of who we are, when we are, and often, what we value. "You are what you eat" now takes on new meaning in a world of carnivores, herbivores, "fat free" fanatics, raw food artists, junk food junkies, and juicing warriors. Food and diets are as much of our pop culture as music and entertainment. We're fascinated with what people are eating and what diets the celebrities are following.
Reality television routinely showcases people with outrageous food cravings and uncontrollable obsessions -- it's our new voyeuristic entertainment. Meanwhile, diet propaganda shockingly encourages young women to starve themselves while other venues promote guzzling beer and inhaling pizza as a man's rite of passage. 

As a species, the human race is getting fatter. Obesity rates increased 214 percent between 1950 and 2000. Two out of every 3 people in the U.S. were obese or overweight in 2010. Not surprisingly, bookstore shelves are lined with new diet books daily. How did we arrive at this point, and what diets have been the most persuasive on our culture? What can we learn from the missteps -- and smart moves -- of the past?
The '80s
Journey, Depeche Mode, Back to the Future, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Full House. Ah, the '80s, notorious for many things -- including the turning point for our waistlines. It was the perfect storm, personal computers became mainstream, Nintendo ushered in the golden age of gaming with the NES, and the original Star Wars trilogy was completed. What further reasons did we need to sit and stare at a screen? Meanwhile, the food industry ramped up the packaged snack selections. Obesity began reaching epidemic proportions, and the need for an honest solution to the problem became obvious. 
To cater to the demand for less fattening foods, manufacturers began making everything "reduced fat" or "fat free." This was in response to the philosophy that fats made you fat. Since fats are the most calorie dense macronutrients, their reduction became a common way of cutting calories.
The concept of restricting the food we eat has been around since humans have had a desire for slenderness, but the low-calorie trend began to really pick up steam in the '80s. These diets used different methods to get their participants to eat fewer calories: Some promoted pre-made, calorie-controlled meals; others implemented low-calorie snacks aimed at reducing appetite. Most promoted restriction of all types of fats. 
What we got right in the '80s: Reduced calorie diets result in weight loss when caloric intake is sufficiently lower then what the participant is accustomed to. In other words, if the participant typically eats 2,500 calories per day and the diet reduces them to 1,600, the dieter will lose weight, at least for a little while. However, if the dieter is already used to eating only 1,600 calories, reducing it marginally further to 1,400 calories will only result in minor weight loss -- if any. 
Where we went wrong: Low-calorie diets are based on a false premise that a person's metabolic rate, or number of calories they require, is fixed. In reality, the primary function of our metabolism is to keep us in stasis (status quo), or to adapt to our nutritional environment. This means if we eat less, our metabolism will gradually re-adjust to run slower, negating marginal reductions to our caloric intake. This is known as the "survival mechanic." If a person burned a set, unchanging number of calories based on genetics, even a small reduction in calories would result in unending weight loss. We know, of course, that this simply isn't so; we hit plateaus and stop losing sooner than we'd like. Despite the fact that our bodies try to thwart our best efforts, fat and caloric restriction remain a principle method of battling the effects of overfeeding ourselves in America.
The '90s:
Sheryl Crow, Green Day, Jurassic Park, PlayStation, Friends, and the Internet forever changed the landscape of our lives. Welcome to the '90s, also the era when we decided all carbohydrates were to be drug out back and shot.  After years of chowing down on every cookie, cracker, and crust that manufacturers slapped a "low-fat" label on, we decided we'd had enough. Fats were in, carbs were out, and we quit caring about calories. Low-carb diets all revolve around the single theme of cutting -- you guessed it -- carbs. 

More aggressive variations on this theme actually promote entering a state called ketosis. Ketosis is triggered by fasting, starvation, intense exercise, and yes, low-carbohydrate diets. Reducing carbs too much can leave you with mental fogginess and even cause irritability. In the absence of carbohydrates our bodies are forced to use alternative metabolic pathways to produce glycogen. The flip side is it can lead to greater metabolizing of fats.
What we got right in the '90s: In many ways, your body views fat (lipids) as a second -ate energy source and needs a little encouragement to use them. Fats are your body's preferred fuel source for sustained low energy output activities. But by the 90's these activities (the foremost being walking and manual chores) had been replaced with power steering and remote controls. Cutting carbohydrates was a means of tricking your body into using more fat for fuel during a greater variety of activities. If you don't have enough sugars (glycogen) available, well then, I suppose you can burn a little more fat. It's this encouragement of using fats for fuel that's earned low carbohydrate diets their iconic status in weight loss history.
Where we went wrong: While cutting carbohydrates did indeed lead to increased fat burning, being over aggressive also led to the depletion of fuels necessary for intense activity making exercise, a key ingredient in long term weight loss, difficult. Furthermore, going for bouts with little to no carbohydrates leaves the body in a "carb sensitive" state. This environment isn't dissimilar to that of athletes preparing to carb load before a race. By reducing their carb intake the body readies itself to store additional rations when they become available. I teach my clients that there is a difference between the carb cost and the calorie cost of a cheat. When it's carbs you've been cutting the cost is much higher; a couple dinner rolls and a glass of wine can easily result in waking up to 2-3 pounds of extra you in the morning even though they only amounted to a few hundred calories.
Dieting since 2000 and beyond:
Eminem, Black eyed Peas, iPhones, The Office, and Mark Zuckerberg changing the way we connect with people. Today as technology marches ever forward, the trend in nutrition is going backward to our beginnings. What we have is a melting pot of diets under the broad theme of "eating natural". Among their ranks are; raw food diets, paleo and gluten free, vegetarian and vegan, and organic food plans. They each promote a chemical free, minimally processed approach to eating, but the similarities end there. Many of their proponents are at each other's throats vying for the label of "the human's natural diet". 
Any such claims are hard to make stick since humans have populated nearly every inch of the globe with nutritional variances as diverse as the climates and terrain these cultures were born out of. Arctic settlers and coastal cultures have thrived off food from the sea, including organ meats and even whale blubber. Jungle tribes and tropical civilizations have flourished eating a mostly plant based diet. Farming cultures have been among the most enduring consuming a mixture of grains and animal products. Some of these diets conflict philosophically over what humans were originally designed to eat, but they wholeheartedly agree that processed foods laced with high-fructose corn syrup, MSG, and artificial sweeteners aren't it.
What we're doing right: We're no longer in denial about the effects greasy--fried foods have on our bodies. And we know we probably can't get away with snacking on sweets and crackers every night. More recently we've learned to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid foods laced with harmful ingredients. Overall we're trying to eat foods more like our grandparents did.
Where we're still going wrong: We're still overweight and filling hospital rooms with people suffering from preventable disease. With improved lifestyle and nutrition many of our country's ills would fade away. Why are we not acting? What is the missing ingredient that will solve our problems? The answer may surprise you: based on what I see in my clients, I think the answer is time. Most people cite "not enough time" as the reason behind their poor eating habits. Our technology-driven society rewards those who move fast, multitask, and rush. In the future I believe the most effective nutrition plans will place emphasis on practical strategies, simple food prep, and offer its patrons compelling evidence that investing the time in procuring healthy foods is a worthwhile investment.  

-Angelo Poli SET SPN CFT

High Heels and Barbells: The Changing Psychology of Fitness

This article originally posted on The Huffington Post. Written by Angelo Poli

For years, experts have been touting the value of weight training for women, but the shift from cardio machines to barbells has been slow. Women have long held that weights are for getting bigger and cardio is for getting smaller. But we know that isn’t so. Early indications from CrossFit, boot camps, and private training programs are that some women are catching on and getting results. Could they know something you don’t? Are wrist wraps and lifting gloves in the same gym bag as lipstick and Lululemon the new norm? 

Over the last decade, trends in the fitness world have come and gone, but here to stay is the changed attitudes toward gender-specific exercise. Overwhelmingly, fitness experts believe in the benefits that both men and women get from strength training. While men get muscled up, women are leaving weight rooms with curves in all the right places and leaner than they’ve ever been.

Boot camps and private training featuring strength routines have been appealing to more and more women. CrossFit has abandoned mirrors and amenities in favor of hand chalk and barbells, openly encouraging scaled competition between the sexes. And it’s been almost 10 years since NBC first aired The Biggest Loser featuring men and women pushing, pulling, and lifting to lose weight. Women are finding they look even better in high heels after extra sessions in the weight room — and they don’t need help with heavy groceries anymore.

Strong is the new sexy:
After years of mathematical calculations, the ladies have finally correlated the link between big bad lifting and a smooth, round, gravity-defying gluteus maximus. The bodies that most women see and desire in magazines and on TV aren’t built on the treadmill anymore. They belong to strong, athletic women unafraid to lift weights and keep up with the boys. 

Additionally, more women are unwilling to settle for merely “appearing” fit. With broader exposure to strength training, I see more of my female clientele taking pride in outgrowing what they presumed were their personal boundaries. They’re able to lift greater loads, move with more grace, and are becoming stronger than they ever thought possible. Note to the guy waiting his turn on the squat rack: The ladies are here to stay!

Couples turn up the heat by training together:
With the trending co-ed exercise that includes side-by-side strength training, couples are finding programs they can do together. This time it’s different however: The guys aren’t just humoring the girls, and the girls aren’t showing up in full makeup and hair. The girls have figured out just how strong they really are and are showing up ready to work. Often they out-do the guys in stamina and compete in strength-based lifts with impressive numbers. The chemistry and feel is totally different. It’s more aggressive, it’s more competitive, and it’s sexier. Girls are finally getting the results they’ve wanted, and the guys are being inspired by their girlfriends, wives, and female co-workers.

The decision to strength train:
Unlike the TV-facing wall of cardio machines at the gym, using weights takes a level of skill. Don’t let that scare you off; the buy in isn’t too steep. Starting gradually and enlisting the help of a skilled coach will help you maximize results and minimize the risk of hurting yourself. Women usually fall into three categories when weighing the decision to train with weights:

Novice: No history of strength training or competitive sports? Weight training is the perfect way to add the intensity you need in your workouts. Your body will respond by firming, lifting, and over time accentuating your natural hourglass shape. Don’t be concerned you’ll transform into the Incredible She-Hulk. That would be like refusing to travel by car for fear of accidentally overshooting your destination by a thousand miles. It’s never going to happen. You’re at no risk of waking up in the morning looking like Madea from the Tyler Perry movies.

Over 40: Many women over 40 believe that getting fit is all about reaching a number on the scale, but find that their old strategies for getting there aren’t working anymore. As we age, our bodies change, and maintaining muscle mass becomes more and more important: It’s our metabolic engine and, in many ways, the engine of youth. A few pounds of muscle may keep the post-40 woman slightly heavier than in her college years, but the improved body composition and faster metabolism is well worth it. Many women find they’re able to reach a lower body fat percentage, fit into smaller sizes, and generally feel more vigorous by adding weight training.

Weight loss: Hitting the weights causes us to burn more calories over the 24-48 hour period following a workout. Include aerobics between strength training sessions and, when possible, select a form of strength training that keeps you moving vigorously throughout the entire workout. You’ve got to work hard: A slow and easy workout won’t cut it — intensity is the key. Remember, no matter what type of training you do, if you’re eating too much, your body mass is going to keep increasing. I’ve said it before: You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

Sugar and spice and everything nice:
Ladies have typically approached weights worrying more about the number on their scale than the number on the bar and some had grown accustomed to considering themselves physically weak. But things are changing. More women are gaining mastery and acceptance over all the numbers in their life — the scale, their age, dress size, etc. — while taking pride in their bodies and abilities at each point of their journey. Weight training is giving women yet another tool: strength. And it looks good on them. As long as women continue to step up to the bar without preconceived boundaries, there’s no limit to what they can do.

3 Steps to Selecting the Right Fitness Plan

So you want to get in shape. I see it all the time, gym bag in hand, iPod fully loaded, and a workout that looks like something you’d expect if Richard Simmons and Hulk Hogan got together to teach a yoga class.

You have guts, determination, and the Rocky theme in your head. The only thing missing: a fitness plan. Before stepping foot on the treadmill, let’s talk about three things you need to do to get results.

1. Know your body type

2. Evaluate your nutrition

3. Set a goal

Step 1: Know your body type.

Knowing your body type will allow you to address the specific obstacles you’ll face while working to reach your fitness goals. Once you know your body type, you can structure your nutrition and exercise to best suit your needs.

Ectomorph: Are you small-framed with longer arms and legs, prone to accumulating fat in your mid section but not your legs? Can you wrap your thumb and middle finger around your wrist and easily touch your fingertips together, even overlap? You’re an ectomorph. You may be lower in body fat but struggling to gain muscle. Most ectomorphs will need more calories to make substantial muscle gains. Generally, add in this order: Assure that adequate (and possibly a bit more) protein needs are met. Then, begin liberally adding complex carbohydrates and a little healthy fat. If you still are not seeing gains, try adding more good fats if you’re too full to consume more carbohydrates. If you’ve identified yourself as an ectomorph but still have weight to lose, consider incorporating resistance training to help you maintain lean mass while thinning out.

Mesomorph: Did you have an athletic build in high school? Not too skinny or stocky, you know, the Goldilocks zone, just right? You set some athletic records in high school and still think of yourself as an athlete even though you’ve gotten a little soft around the middle? Probably a mesomorph. Change it up. Want to build muscle? Fine, do it for a while, then switch it up. Get your body used to extra calories and carbs for recovery, then scale back and watch the body fat melt off. If you want to do it in reverse, cut back on your calories or carbs until you stop seeing changes in your body, and then gradually increase both food intake and training intensity. You’ll pack on some new muscle.

Endomorph: Were you were bigger and stronger than most the kids in grade school, but running was never your thing? By high school, you already began equating the word “metabolism” with various profanities. Endomorph. Gains in the weight room come easy, but so do gains around your waistline. You have a solid muscular foundation. If weight loss is your goal, you’ll likely have to be more diligent about monitoring your intake than the other body types, eating fewer calories and carbs than someone of similar height and weight of a different body type. Be consistent and include plenty of aerobics in your day-to-day activities, like walking, climbing stairs, and hiking.

Step 2: Evaluate your diet

Start by keeping a detailed food log for three days. If you bite it, you write it. Food logging alone can go a long way toward rooting out poor nutritional habits. Ultimately, the best way to predict what nutritional approach will work for you is to evaluate your current eating habits. If you aren’t particularly savvy about nutrition, use an online calculator (such as FitDay or Calorie King). Take special note of your approximate calories and carbohydrates and view them as dials you can use to rev your metabolism up or scale your intake back. Small increases to your intake can help when trying to build muscle, while calculated restriction results in shedding unwanted body fat. Nutrition is at least 75 percent of the battle, and you can’t out-train a poor diet.

Step 3: Set a goal

It needs to be a real goal. Something you can measure and stay committed to. Just saying you want to “get fit” or “tone up” doesn’t commit you to anything specific and leaves the door open to bowing out before you see measurable results. Be specific. If your primary goal is weight loss, then choose an additional performance-based goal that supports your goal of weight loss. Running a 5k or signing up for a triathlon are both great examples of performance-based goals that will also help you drop pounds. Bumping up your bench press or doing more pull-ups is a great choice for someone trying to build muscle. Don’t make the mistake of failing to select a performance goal. By itself the scale can be deceptive, unable to discern composition improvements and additional muscle. However, making progress toward a carefully-selected, performance-based goal will be empowering and motivational.

Putting it together

Now we’re ready to head out and create the new you, this time with goals clearly laid out, body type well understood, and nutrition to back you up. With the demands of daily life already vying for space in our busy schedules, having the right fitness plan is worth our due diligence. In future posts we’ll examine the exact dos and don’ts of creating your new body.


Seven Tests of True Strength

By Andrew Hefferman, C.S.C.S, Photographs by Matthew Salacuse

"Are you Men's Health Fit? Prove it -- or improve


Sure, the definition of "fit" varies; power lifters and marathoners have different views. Still, every man should be able to meet certain standards before he can call himself in shape." And then there's Men's Health Fit.Take these tests to see how you measure up. If you don't clear our admittedly high bar, don't sweat it - we have tips from top experts to help bring you up to speed."

1. Jump

2. Squat, Curl, Push Press

3. Controlled Wall Squat

4. Beep Test

5. Deadlift

6. Clapping Pushups

7. Plank - Hold for more than 3 minutes

"A Chiseled core makes you stronger in everything you do, from carrying groceries to mastering the deadlift. It enables you to "produce, stabilize, and transmit force through out the body" says Angelo Poli, owner of Whole Body Fitness in Chico, California. But that armada of muscles is "on" whenever you're upright, so stamina is key."

See Full Article at "Men's Health". - requires digital subscription or purchase the issue at your local newsstand.

Paleo, Weight Watchers, Atkins: What diet is right for your body type?

Every month my clients ask me about one of the new nutritional trends. Last month everyone wanted to know about the HCG diet, this month it's Paleo. CrossFitters the world over swear by this diet yet most of the elite competitors by their own admission don't follow it strictly. Does that mean it's not right for you? Not necessarily. Having an understanding of what mechanics are involved in a nutritional model like The Paleo Diet is the key to knowing what's best for you. For the purpose of this discussion we'll review the steps needed to properly evaluate what your nutritional needs are. Then we'll consider the mechanics behind a few popular diets and see how they stack up.

One of my hobbies as a sports nutritionist is to follow trends in the nutrition field and observe as the public opinions of specific foods, even entire food groups shifts. It never ceases to amaze me how opinions thrash to and fro like waves in a storm being influenced by the media, advertising, and commercial stigma's. Remember when egg yolks were bad? Then yolks were good. Now the American Heart Association has settled on "Yolks are ok, but just in case no more then one per day". Really, that's no big deal when you consider that we're used to vilifying entire macronutients. It seems to go by decades. In the 80's yourleg warmers and sweat bands were kicked to the curb if you weren't low fat. In the 90's we packed up the carbohydrates. Breads, grains, and cereals were marched out back and shot. Even if they were allowed in the house they were hidden in the cupboards guests wouldn't see so you didn't have to explain yourself. On a related note laxative sales saw a noted increase those years. Today it's all about Gluten Free and Organic. Eat what you like so long as it comes naturally from mother earth and is sold to you by a cashier who smells of hemp seed and likely doesn't own a clothing iron.

So are all trends bad? No. In fact all of them have merit and benefits. The trouble is misapplication and extremes. Having a working understanding of the basic principles a diet is operating on can allow you to be a savvy dieter. With the mountain of opinions and endless stream of new diets entering the market it is definitely a "buyer beware" situation. My goal here isn't to promote or discourage any one method of dieting. Rather I want to arm you with knowledge that will allow you to make better informed decisions about your nutrition and health. Let me share with you my secret to making nutritional recommendations. Evaluation. Unless you evaluate your needs and goals you can only vaguely guess what nutrition plan is right for you. Here's an example of a full evaluative process:

1.) Determine your primary goal

Be a specialist not a generalist! I know, I know . You want to burn fat, build muscle, loose weight, increase your strength, shrink your waist, and grow 2 inches taller. Who doesn't? Your body responds best when focused attention is given to one primary goal at a time. Don't get me wrong, people can achieve multiple goals at the same time via diet and exercise but unless you prioritize your goals and have a clear defined focus, you'll never be able to maximize your results.

2.)Acknowledge your body type

-Are you a petite frame with longer arms and legs, prone to accumulating fat in your mid section more then legs? You're an Ectomorph. Can you wrap your thumb and middle finger around your wrist and easily touch your finger tips together, even overlap? Say it real slow... Ecto- morph. Does going more then 4 hours without food cause your alter ego to rear it's ugly head making your irritable, headachy, and ravenously craving carbs and sugar? Maybe your a different body type... just kidding. You're an Ectomorph.

- Did you have an athletic build in high school? Not to skinny or stocky, you know the Goldilocks zone. . just right. Mesomorph. You set some athletic records in high school, maybe even college, but now spend most of your time working late hours at the office crumpling pieces of paper to toss at the waste paper basket. Deep down you still think of yourself as a warrior and athlete. Yeah, you're a mesomorph. Food is good, but you'll gladly skip a meal to build an appetite for your favorite dinner. Mesomorph.

-You were bigger and stronger than all the kids in grade school. By high school you already began equating the word "metabolism" with various profanities. Endomorph. Gains in the weight room seem to come easy, as do gains at the buffet line. Everyone else seems almost delicate when compared to your sturdy bone structure and frame. You can wrap you thumb and middle finger around your wrist but most of you can barely touch. Endomorph.

Don't like your body type? Well, you'll have to take that up with your parents. Sorry, can't help you there. All I can do is give you a rough road map of how your body type "generally" responds to various nutritional activities. Each body type has their pre-disposed strengths and weakness, simply acknowledging them is a vital key in evaluating your nutritional needs. As for me, I'm an ectomorph. I live in perpetual irritation that my wife still has more developed calves then me. I comfort myself with the knowledge that I can drown my sorrows in a few extra carbs at night without paying too much penalty.  Now these are generalizations. Often people can have traits from more then one body type, however most people will quickly identify with one of the above somo (body types)

So what does your body type mean for you?

Ectomorph - Typically lower in body fat and often struggling to gain muscle. No matter how "clean" or "healthy" your diet, most ectomorphs will need more calories to make substantial muscle gains. Generally add in this order - assure that adequate (and possibly a little more) protein needs are met. Then begin liberally adding complex carbohydrates and a little healthy fat. If you still are not seeing gains, consider adding more fats as you will be too full to muscle down more and more carbohydrates. Fats will give you more caloric bang for your buck and as such remains the "end game" diet strategy for hard gainers by default.

Mesomorph - Change it up. Your body will respond to changes. Wanna build muscle? Fine. Do it for a while then switch it up. Get your body used to extra calories and carbs for recovery and then start scaling back and watch the body fat strip off. Or if you want to do it in reverse, cut back on your carbs or calories until you stop seeing changes in your body and then gradually increase both your food intake and training intensity and let your body build some muscle.

Endomorph - Your body doesn't play by the rules. Everyone tells you to eat this or take that to fuel your muscle and aid your recovery. Fuel the muscle starve the fat... right? Who cares about muscle. That's right you heard me. You've been building muscle since you were four years old!  Once all you fitness professionals finish gasping at the notion that I just suggested it's ok to allow your body to lose some precious muscle, consider this: Unless you plan on being a competitive powerlifter (even then strength is mostly neuromuscular) I can think of very few endomorphs that wouldn't sacrifice 10 pounds of muscle if it meant losing 25 pounds of fat. Even with restricted food intake, hitting the weights still seems to trigger muscular development. Use that to your advantage, but tune your nutrition more in favor of weight loss. You will likely have to be more diligent about monitoring your intake then the other body types, eating fewer calories and carbs than someone of similar height / weight but of a different body type. Be consistent and take full advantage of the benefits of aerobics.

3.) Evaluate your current diet. The only way to know where we're going is to know where we came from right? Keep a food log. I know, you're fed up and ready to start your new diet now. Don't. Most of you will ignore me because you have a friend who went on the ABC diet and got XYZ results so you think it's going to work the same for you. Wrong. The only way to know what diet approach will work best for you is to evaluate what your body is currently used to. If you aren't particularly savvy about nutrition and macronutrients use an online calculator. Over a few days of typical eating note your approximate calories and ratio's of carbs, protein, and fat. Based on that determine if you have the most room to adjust calories, carbohydrates, or a combination of both. Then make your choice what style of dieting best suits your needs. Don't forget to factor in your body type.

  So what diet options are out there? Basically there are 3 categories of diets. By decade popularity they are:

  • Natural and gluten free. The Paleo Diet is one of several that fit this genre. (current trend)
  • Carbohydrate restriction. The Atkins Diet is the popular grandfather to much of this genre. (Low carbohydrate diets have been popular from the late 90's through today)
  • Calorie restriction. Weight Watchers is still a leader pioneering this principle. (popular in the 80's and now promoted differently, but the same basic science)


The Paleo Diet

Restricts dairy and gluten. It allows liberal use of everything else provided it's "clean" or "unprocessed". Basically what we have here is a "Hippie's guide to digestive treatment" .... and a pretty darn good one too. There are two failings. Difficult adherence and non-specific attributes (I'll explain that shortly). We have a 20 - 20 - 60 scenario here. Twenty percent of the population are going to find this diet to be the holy grail of digestive relief leading to massive improvements in their quality of life. Twenty percent of the population are going to see no digestion change and quickly get fed up with shopping from the one shelf in the grocery store that's gluten free. Sixty percent of the population will see some marginal improvements and could go either way. How do I know this? I evaluate people's nutritional needs every day. For every 10 people who sit in my office roughly two of them will have obvious digestion issues, discomfort, and problems. Two of them will be those who eat a diet of rusty nails and dry wall yet amazingly feel fine. (We all know people like that.. .. and yes we hate them) Six of them will land somewhere in the middle. Naturopaths who believe gluten and dairy to be the devil itself will think me crazy for not believing everyone has intolerance's. Meanwhile, the bread and dairy industry will ask how entire civilizations have flourished on diets rich in milk and grains for millennia. I have no interest in getting in the middle of their feud. I just call it how I see it. 20 - 20 - 60.

Those of you die hard fans who eat and breath paleo don't need to send me mail defending why you feel paleo is nutritionally superior to other ways of eating. I've heard your arguments, acknowledge them, and am now attempting to provide clarity and perspective for the "average" consumer trying to select a diet. In fact to be perfectly blunt, I'm not interested in recommending people follow the best diet (insert gasping sound here). What I'm interested in is helping people select the "best diet" that they can actually convert into a "lifestyle", and those are two very different things. If I were to put pen to paper and be forced to recommend the "best" diet to save humanity, it would probably end up looking like some sort of fusion high protein vegan diet (nutritionists know why that's funny). Rather my goal is to provide people with tools to identify the diet that will work best for their circumstance while considering all factors including goals and lifestyle.

Alright already lets get to the point, will Paleo make me lose weight? And the answer is (drum roll),  ... maybe. That's where the non-specific attributes come in. The paleo diet really is dominantly a digestive health program. In a effort to eliminate processed foods, chemicals, and inflammatory properties, junk food has been eliminated. By default that is going to result in a drop in caloric intake for most people. That will equal weight loss. In an effort to restrict gluten, most of our favorite carbohydrate options have been removed.. pasta, breads, etc. Therefore it will likely result in a significant reduction in carbohydrates. For most that will mean weight loss. Then why do I say "maybe"? Because even though as a matter of happenstance it will somewhat accidentally result in lower carbs and calories, there are still several foods allowed on the diet that are excellent for gaining weight. For example: banana's, sweet potato's, and nuts are perfect examples of high glycemic carbs, low glycemic carbs, and fats ideal for packing on pounds. So losing weight on Paleo depends on how you do the Paleo diet. Lots of people dance when they hear salsa music, but that doesn't mean they all know how to salsa. The moral of the story is if you don't know how to dance, get off the floor. My recommendation, if you want to try Paleo, more power to you, but use a qualified nutritionist to help you structure your Paleo plan to meet your needs.

Paleo is more for athletes anyway right? Consider your body type! It depends on your needs. For example, a Paleo diet structured to emphasize meats and veggies with moderate low inclusion of low glycemic carbohydrates and very low inclusion of high glycemic carbohydrates (banana's, raisins etc), canbe quite well suited for an endomorphic body type looking to lose weight. On the other hand an ectomorphic competitive athlete attempting to limit themselves to the recovery that fruits and veggie can provide alone will leave them falling short of their athletic potential every time. Unless they've developed romantic feelings about pounding buckets of mashed sweet potato's with every meal, they're simply not going to recover optimally. But I'll live off fats. I love nuts. No. You won't. Sporting a high fat diet, low in carbs defies every scientific study done on sports nutrition and performance in the last 60 years. If you want to perform your best in the glycolitic pathway (looking at you CrossFitters) you'll need carbs.That is why elite CrossFitters are rarely "strict" Paleo by their own admission. While only theoretical, I'd bet that if a pole was taken of truly elite CrossFit athletes who follow some variation of the Paleo diet what we'd find is that those who are Endomorphic break their diet and "carb up" less often then those who are Ectomorphic needing ample carbs at that level of performance. Ironically, Rich Froning Jr. and Annie Thorisdottir, the 2011and 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Champions are both classic Mesomorphs - smack dab in the middle. Niether follow Paleo. Let the debates continue.

The Atkins diet

As some of us sports nutritionist call it "The Tyrannical Eradication of Carbohydrates from the Planet". So will I lose weight on it? Yup. So you see the battle us nutritionists have when convincing dieters to be moderate in their eating habits. It's a tricky one. People want instant gratification and if they see the scale dropping it's hard to convince them to do anything else. Carbohydrate restriction, especially when fairly severe, causes the body to metabolize a greater amount of lipids (among other energetic substrates) in the synthesis of ATP. Extremely low carb diets and exercise aren't good bed fellows.They're at each other's throats. Low carbs wants to take a nap while Exercise wants to hit the gym but needs a ride and Low carb isn't moving. Exercise keeps yelling "you'll never be healthy or fit without me!" Low carb just smirks"yeah but I can just lay around and still lose weight so why bother".

Ultimately most people will gain the weight back after following an extremely low carb diet. Here's why:
1.) Cutting all carbs does indeed make achieving any level of intensity while exercising difficult, therefore as a lifestyle change you're missing half the battle. Usually I spend my days managing people who think they can "just" exercise and get results... yeah, let me know how that works out. With the "low carbers" I find myself trying to convince them that a strict diet without exercise is just as bad. It's like they're all on a giant boat, "low carbers" on one side, "Exercisers" on the other. The Low carbers are laughing because there's a hole on the Exercisers side of the boat. Kind of short sighted.

2.) Difficult adherence, nearly impossible long term. Sure, I could spend a week or two living off bacon, cheese, and burgers wrapped in lettuce. Double double protein style at In-N-Out here I come. Course I'll need to buy stock in Metamucil and Exlax. Eventually I'll just need a bite of something loaded with carbs, and when I do...

3.) I'll wake up the next morning looking like I fell out of the "Fat Tree" and hit every branch on the way down. Good morning puffy face! You see several biological elements converge at the point of cheating on a low carb diet to make us instantaneously fat and filled with self loathing. After weeks of "low carbing it" your body is in full-on glycogen depletion mode. Athletes will purposely restrict a small amount of carbs just prior to carb loading. You have now achieved all the elements necessary to qualify for carb loading by having just one meal. The morning after... You wake feeling puffy taking notice that your rings are now stuck on your fat swollen fingers as you stagger to the scale. Looking down at your new number brings up feeling of guilt and remorse as you replay in your mind how it all happened. You walk away thoroughly depressed and console yourself with guessed it. Carbs.

Notice that my reference is to extreme carbohydrate restriction. Moderate restriction is a completely different animal and can be applied to great benefit in many circumstances.

Weight Watchers

It's good old calorie restriction turned into a game with points. Significantly less structure than some recent diets. High emphasis on quick and easy identification of the lower calorie options across multiple venues via a "point" system. It may seem overly simple, but that's why it's been successful for many people for years. It's not overly cumbersome. In times past there hasn't been enough emphasis placed on making the right or healthiest choices with food. This diet has favored pure and simple identification of the lowest calorie option. From a nutritionists perspective that can be fraught with problems as selecting foods only based around calorie content can lead to a highly processed and nutritionally depleted diet. Individualization, adaptivity to unique needs, or athletic structuring is nearly absent. In recent times they have shifted to a more educational model promoting more balance and healthier selections. That is good, but a large percentage of their patrons are only exposed to a limited amount of the educational process, those who stay involved will likely do best.


The key lies in evaluating what your body's needs are based on your body type and previous nutritional history. Keep a food log, it will be enlightening. Research more about your body type and carefully consider your goal. Make sure the diet you're considering is compatible with your goal. If all else fails or you reach a plateau that you're unable to navigate, get help from a qualified nutritionist.

Angelo Poli SET SPN CFT

A calorie is a calorie, right?

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, right? Not even close! Perhaps inside test tubes in laboratories; but in the real world, a calorie is more like the American dollar— its value goes up and down with inflation and the economy. If inflation is high, a dollar doesn’t buy us much. Likewise, if your metabolism is running high, a few extra calories will be quickly used and therefore have less impact on your “bottom line”. If your metabolism is running low, even a few extra calories will pack on extra pounds.

I collect a food log before creating a client's program to see what kind of food consumption their metabolism can handle. The value and effect of a calorie can only be measured when contrasted with the speed of our metabolism at the time the calorie is ingested. And the speed of your metabolism is constantly adjusting to the environment created for it daily by your energy balance.

If we reduce calories, we trigger a metabolic response in our bodies that starts slowing our metabolism. We will then lose weight only until the metabolism has adapted to our new caloric intake. We call this point a 'plateau'.

It’s at these 'plateaus' that we are most vulnerable to taking extreme measures that can ruin our metabolisms. Often we resort to some nutritional "extreme" out of frustration to break this plateau. Understanding how our metabolism works and what a plateau actually is, helps us to determine how to handle them. Our bodies metabolism can significantly throttle back and slow down when it perceives a food shortage. This is a survival mechanic, and a very powerful one. When we hit these plateaus we have two options:

A - reduce calories or carbohydrates further

B - Increase food intake

These options may seem straight-forward but responding incorrectly to a plateau can cause big problems for our efforts to reduce body fat. If handled properly, a structured decrease in our food intake can result in temporarily staving off the plateau long enough to lose more weight. If handled incorrectly, or when food intake is already too low, it can trigger a survival mechanic that can wreck our metabolism and make it nearly impossible to lose more weight.

If we choose to increase our food intake we need to recognize that our new goal is to speed our metabolism and not necessarily to lose more weight at this point. If we increase our intake we may actually increase our body mass so making sure we are doing the proper exercise at this point will ensure that only lean mass is increased and not body fat. It’s a very fine line to walk between increasing our intake enough to speed our metabolism while not gaining any body fat. Often this can only be accomplished by a gradual increase in food intake spread out over a few weeks. If implemented properly it will reset our metabolic rate, and allow us to once again begin dieting with results.

When properly structured, a diet can be cycled in such a way to decrease weight and body fat, and if needed, be re purposed to temporarily reinvigorate our metabolic rate allowing us to hit the 'reset' on the body’s ability to drop weight.

This method has the advantage of resulting in dramatic shifts in body composition and actually 'reboots' the metabolism so that these results are sustainable.

This approach is far too dependent on individual evaluation to be presented as a mass diet.... which is why there are no manuscript diets that can yield results anywhere close to this.

An intelligent nutrition plan must be based first on the current food intake levels your body is used to; second, what activities and conditioning you’ll be engaging in; and third, what your specific body type is, and unique personal goals are.

When these elements are accounted for, and then food and exercise timing is factored in, the results can be quite impressive to even the most experienced fitness professional.

Overcoming adversity while dieting

I’ve been designing diets for my clients for a decade now and have worked with several thousand people. One of the things I’ve learned is that we are ALL human and have different struggles and weaknesses. With that being said there are a few common issues that most of my clients face, and a few proactive measures that can be taken that strongly correlate to success with a diet.

1.) Recognize that most often people break their diet not out of cravings but out of convenience. If there is nothing healthy and in harmony with your diet available you’ll have no choice but to “break” the diet. The solution is prepare your healthy food in advance. I actually require my clients to use an ice chest and ask them to show it to me regularly. Preparation is vastly more significant then will power when it comes to successful dieting.

2.) Don’t let a bad nutritional day turn into a bad weekend and bad week. If you fall off the wagon, don’t worry. Everyone does sooner or later. The ones who get back on track quickly make the most progress.

3.)Do no keep junk food in your house. Assuming you can resist it if you make your mind up to do so is flawed thinking for two reasons. First it’s flawed because eventually you’ll have an emotional or frustrating day and turn to the junk food... I know because this is exactly what I do. Second, even if you do resist the temptation, having to constantly deny yourself something every time you walk by the pantry will only lead to feelings of resentment for your new healthy life style. You don’t need that. Keep your home a safe haven of healthy options. If you cheat on the diet do it out of the house and don’t take it home.

4.) Understand the difference between selectively choosing to “break” your diet and uncontrollably choosing to break your diet. Deciding that you’re going out with your friends for dinner on Saturday and choosing in advance to allow yourself a little leeway is ok from time to time. Deciding to stick to your diet and then crumbling every time sweets in your path is not.

5.) Once again... use an ice chest and cook in bulk! Preparation equals success.

By Angelo Poli SPN, CFT, SET
- owner Whole Body Fitness

Good morning, nice to meet your metabolism!


There is so much misunderstanding regarding the metabolism we could write books on just this topic. Don't even get me started on how the diet industry often tries to cover up the truth of how our metabolism actually works. I'm often asked for a summation of the topic so while this is most definitely the abbreviated version - here it is... Meet your metabolism! It works like this:

The metabolism basically has 2 modes.

“Active Mode.”  - This is when it’s running at full power fueled by plentiful energy intake (calories and carbohydrates) when the body has not been dramatically deprived of the food it needs to sustain it’s mass. In other words, you’ve not been doing any sustained radical dieting that would push it into “Survival Mode.” If this describes you, then there’s good news! You have the upper hand metabolically and are in a strong position to start loosing weight!

**Note: Even if feel you have a genetically slow metabolism or are currently inactive, overweight, or out of shape, you still have the resource that matters most in the battle against excess weight. A metabolism that’s not in survival mode. With the proper science you can easily make some simple manipulations to your food combinations or meal timing and see some immediate results. 

“Survival Mode” - This is a normal stage of dieting that is often misunderstood. It’s a natural response to sustained dieting and can’t be avoided entirely. When you understand what’s going on when your metabolism enters “Survival Mode” and recognize it as a natural part of the weight loss cycle, it can be dealt with quickly and effectively. There are varying degrees to this mode. It can be the normal readjusting our metabolism goes through (often between 3-5 weeks after starting a new diet)  that can stop us from loosing weight for just a few days. Or it can be a complete plateauing of our weight loss progress that requires purposeful readjustment of our nutrition to circumvent the halted progress. 

It’s here in the “Survival Mode” that the battle for our bodies, and our health is fought.. Sadly it’s often misinformation on how our metabolism actually works that’s responsible for abandoned weight loss aspirations. Not to worry though, you CAN lose the weight, and you’ll be delighted how painless it is when properly approached. The key is learning how to minimize the amount of time you body spends in "survival mode" and maximize your time spent in "Active mode" where the real progress is made.

Using your metabolism to your advantage

With an intelligently designed nutrition plan you can gradually, and progressively lower your food / energy intake to stimulate weight loss. As you do this you MUST realize that the more you restrict your intake the greater your metabolism turns on that survival mechanic. Ultimately most people will reach a point where they can't or shouldn't drop their intake any lower otherwise they will plunge themselves destructively into "Survival Mode" with little prospects for maintaining their recent weight loss.

The trick is understanding how to ride that line of adjusting the diet at just the right pace to sustain progressive weight loss and then recognize the early signs of needing to start increasing your food intake in order to cheat your metabolism out of a long dry summer of "survival mode".  If you have to increase your intake to let your metabolism refresh, don't delay in doing so. Be prepared by planing to offer your body a proverbial piece offering... an alternative outlet for the extra calories - lean mass. If you're doing some form of resistance training then odds are the small increase will primarily go to building muscle. Be patient. This phase isn't about losing weight directly but rather about reestablishing a heathy metabolism that is in "Active Mode". After a short while you're metabolism will start running "hotter". You WILL feel this if you listen to your body. That's the signal that you're ready to start losing again. It's all in the timing. When and how much to adjust your diet is the key. As far as the "what" you should be eating, well you should already know that... Lean proteins, quality slow burning carbohydrates, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. As to the "details" of exactly how much of the right foods to eat, what ratio to eat them in, and when to change those ratio's and amounts. . . well, it's all about the details. For those who are diligent and pay attention to the details, your metabolism will work for you instead of against you! Ignore them or leave it all to chance and you'll see... the devil is in the details.  

By Angelo Poli SPN, CFT, SET
- owner Whole Body Fitnes

Is Late Night Eating Unhealthy?

Is unhealthy, and doing so will pack on pounds, no matter how healthy you eat. Other people believe that eating late is absolutely fine, as long as you stick to healthy foods and stay away from junk. Which is true?

Should you refrain from eating past a certain time, or does it matter how late you eat, so long as you eat healthy?

Does your metabolism really slow down after a certain time?

The answer to this debate depends mostly on what diet or mechanic you are using to lose weight. There are two basic mechanics that effect weight and body composition.

1. Calorie restriction

2. Macronutrient ratios (controlling the ratio of proteins, carbs, and fats) Low carbohydrate diets use this mechanic to force the body to burn more lipids for fuel.

Note: There are many other strategies aimed at controlling hormones, glycemic load, etc, that can be helpful. These additional strategies are often combined into a diet. The primary mechanic however remains the same.  Reduce calories or carbohydrates.

What happens to our metabolism at night?

When we sleep at night our bodies power down into a state of extremely low energy expenditure. At this point any left over fuel in the tank is more likely to be stored as body fat. Not all fuel is the same, however. Proteins, for example, are still used even while we sleep to repair tissue. If we have excess sugars at night time it's unlikely that we will be able to burn them off and therefore store some as unwanted body fat.

Pros & cons when deciding whether to include a food “cut off time” as part of your diet program:

Pro: In the short run it will seem as though you are losing more weight. This is mostly because your body will be in a “fasting” state for a longer period of time in a 24 hour cycle. You will wake with less intestinal bulk and feel mildly lighter and digestively “empty”.

Pro: If you are following a reduced carbohydrate program, it will ensure that you don’t unintentionally get carbohydrates late at night. Carbohydrates at night undermine the mechanic that triggers fat loss. This is especially the case when the diet is already built around that mechanic (low carbs).

Pro: Most Americans consume the bulk of their calories in the second half of the day. If your weight loss plan is built around calorie restriction, a cut off time for meals can help keep you within your targeted caloric intake.

Con: It’s a gimmick. No serious athletes should completely eliminate their intake at night. The same mechanic that causes us to lose more weight by going consecutive hours without food (fasting) causes us to plunge deeper into a catabolic state (feeding off our own muscles). This is counter-productive when trying to develop lean mass, recover from intense training, or improve athletic performance. 

Tip: There are three basic body types. Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph. Learn which one you are. Ectomorphs will be most negatively impacted by the above mentioned catabolic effects of fasting while Endomorphs will be the least effected.

Con: Many people are subject to blood sugar swings. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is more likely to effect someone aggressively dieting. Cutting off food too early in the day may impact you if you’re prone to low blood sugar.


Based on the pros and cons it’s reasonable to conclude that it’s important to know your body type and understand the mechanics involved in the diet you’re following.

If you’re following a reduced carbohydrate diet, some people see benefits from allocating less carbs in the evening while still getting some proteins and fats.

When following a reduced calorie diet that doesn’t restrict carbohydrates you’ll still benefit by avoiding highly processed foods at night. It's a safe assumption that sugar before bed is undesirable for any diet.

I sincerely welcome any questions or comments,
Angelo Poli SET, SPN, CF

Why am I a circle?

It's true, people come in all different shapes and sizes, but in recent years more and more seem to come in the same general shape. A circle.

It seems our lifestyle in general (the age of technology and eating on the run) produces an easily identifiable bulbous and sagging look towards the center circle. How did this happen? I used to be rectangular, even triangular... but now I'm a circle.

There are two primary contributing factors to our increasingly spherical physiques.

The first reason is that when we spend additional time in the seated or slumped position, our head and shoulders tend to roll forward and down (toward our center) and our arms internally rotate (again toward our center). Not sure if this describes you? Well, do you spend much of your time working at a desk, relaxing on the couch, driving, being driven, watching movies, working on the computer, eating, visiting with friends at the coffee shop, texting, studying, reading, playing video games, talking on the phone...? the way, what are you doing right now? You wouldn't happen to be sitting, would you?

If any of these activities describe a large part of your life, you are.. well... pretty normal. Also your head is likely forward from your center of gravity (not in line with your ankles), and when you stand relaxed the back of your hands face forward instead of your thumbs.

Ok, now that you've stood up and checked yourself out in the mirror (yeah, I know), let me recommend a couple things you can do to help restore yourself from a circle to any number of improved geometrical shapes.

For every hour a day you spend in the seated or slumped position, I suggest performing 2 door-jam shrugs. That means if you spend 10 hours per day sitting (scary but add it up - driving to work, sitting at your desk, relaxing in front of the TV etc..) that means you would perform 20 door-jam shrugs per day!

The second reason is because when we gain fat, our bodies are designed to hold it more or less symmetrically near the center of our bodies. Thank goodness for that! Could you imagine if we had an extra 30 pounds in our left ankle? Our Hop-Scotch days would be over! Instead, our bodies store the extra weight neatly in our stomach, thighs, and hips, allowing us to move with remarkable dexterity on the dance floor despite the need for a Doctor's note prior to preforming most popular dance moves (you know what I'm talking about)...

There are a few nutritional strategies.... and yes -- I'm talking about diet -- or as some people commonly regard it, “the complete removal of life's enjoyment”. Regardless, if you're in the market for a diet, make sure you read this brief article based on years of dieting thousands of clients. There are some common elements that strongly correlate to success with dieting.

Click here to view the article "Overcoming Adversity While Dieting".

While as a nation we are becoming increasingly rotund, individually we can take some steps to prevent ourselves from becoming or remaining.. “a circle”.

Instead we can adopt a healthy lifestyle and get in the best "shape" of our life.

Angelo Poli SPN, CFT, SET

Science based exercise: The gym, where golfers go to die

Science based exercise: The gym, where golfers go to die...

It’s becoming more and more of a cliché around here. The more athletes I train, the more injuries I hear about that originated “in the gym” training for their sport. Why?

It’s the same reason for golfers as it is for any other sports participant; in reaching for athletic excellence they followed out dated advice.

Lets speak strictly “athletically” and leave technique, experience, and the ability to maintain mental focus under pressure (all abilities necessary to excel as a golfer) off the table for a moment.

What makes the ultimate physical athlete? What should the Zeus of golf look like and be able to perform?
Massive upper body strength? Gymnast like flexibility? No..

The elite golfer needs to achieve one thing. A body that functions as it was originally designed. All the joints, bones, and muscles in proper alignment working together as a functional unit. In this position an athlete’s body works together and has the greatest capacity for power, stability, balance and of most concern to the golfer, reliable and predictable movement. We call this “neutral anatomical alignment.” An athlete who achieves this has all the tools necessary to maximize their potential. While following the rules governing human movement and muscular balance we manage to develop a physique with greater strength, speed, and power.. Great! But BE CAUTIOUS, if achieving greater strength and power comes at the expense of violating the body’s innate blueprint for functionality, your athletic ability and possibly structural integrity will be compromised.

How so..?
For starters, Americans (and most industrialized nations) are already starting at a cultural disadvantage functionally speaking. Understanding this is absolutely vital to reaching your potential athletically. The human body has muscles responsible for postural integrity, fluid motion, and general maintenance of full range movement. Nearly all of us have crucial muscles and stabilizers that have atrophied (weakened) as well as over taxed hypertonic (shortened and tight) postural muscles trying to do the job of their weakened counter parts. This goes for both the couch potato and the muscle bound jock alike. There are many reasons for this in our society but a simple one that most people can relate to is as plain as the chairs we sit in. Our bodies are designed for motion. Only in movement are our bodies maintained and calibrated to our original functional blue print. But we are a nation of professional sitters. We sit to work, we sit to travel, we sit to recreate, we sit to eat, we sit to rest, and likely as you’re reading this... you’re sitting.

This culture forces our bodies to execute one of the programs it’s best designed for: adaption. Our bodies are constantly in a state of adaption to both internal and external stimulation. If we run regularly, our lungs and cardiovascular systems adapt to become more efficient. If we eat too much, our bodies store the extra fuel in areas that allow us to (usually) manage the extra weight until we are somewhat plump. Imagine if we were to store all our excess body fat in our ankles and wrists.. we would become prohibitively clumsy. No, our bodies adapt to withstand the demands placed upon it. Even our skin adapts to manage greater sun exposure.

Humans as a culture and generation are once again adapting to the demands of our life style and it’s not for the better.

Our culture forces adaptive responses in the major axis of the body (the pelvis) and extends to the common mis-alignments we see nearly everywhere, sagging forward rolled shoulders and head, rounded upper backs, turned out feet, to name a few. Don’t believe me... open you’re eyes. It’s an epidemic that’s particularly worrisome amongst our youth. It’s everywhere.

Do you suppose our bodies could be so mis-shaped and out of alignment without the muscles and joints being severely compromised? Of course not.

Now you the athlete are deciding which of the latest “improve your swing” exercises is going to help you drive 50 yards further down the fairway. Please listen. I work with some of the top athletes in the world across multiple sports and have been amazed at the endurance of faulty belief systems in nearly all sports. You are asking the wrong question!

What you need to be asking yourself is, how do I restore my body to it’s original functionality, before our “lifestyle” eroded it’s balance and alignment? If you can answer this question reasonably then you’re already ahead of most trainers in the gym. Now your time in the gym, stretching, and training will be well worth your investment. Anything else will likely contribute further to muscular imbalances, further compromise of your joints, reduced range of motion, and make you more susceptible to injury.

But there is good news for golfers and anyone wanting their bodies to “thrive”. While I always feel time and resources spent with experienced professionals trained to identify weaknesses in your body (not just the beach muscles) is a worthy investment, basic logic and a few simple principles can go a long way in allowing an athlete to make good choices about their conditioning on their own.

First take an honest look in the mirror. Stop sucking in your gut, don’t puff out your chest and quit zeroing in on the veins in your forearm. They will do nothing to hold your spine erect, head in the neutral position, or help you swing your clubs with precision and reliability. I want you to just relax. View your posture from the side. Even without a plumb line or advanced measuring instruments you will be able to see where your body is sagging, drooping, rolling, or rotating. Every bone in your body is being held in place by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Picture a circus tent withcables holding the giant poles in place. If some of the cables are tighter and shorter on one side and weaker on the other the pole and everything attached to it will lean and sag.

That’s what’s happening to your spine and subsequent bones and structure. No wonder our junior high aged sons are already walking duck footed and our high school aged daughters have forward rounded shoulders and a head that sinks down. We’ve conditioned our bodies to get used to weak and shortened muscles.

Now back to the mirror. If from the side our shoulders slump forward try this: Roll your shoulders further forward, feel what muscles are working to bring them forward, then return them back in line with our ankles (like a greek statue). Take a moment in this position (shoulders drawn back) and feel what muscles are working in order to hold them there. It’s easy to assess what muscles have become dominant in that game of tug of war.

If you’re like 95% of the clients I see on a daily basis it’s likely that your chest (anterior) muscles have won the war. The muscles in your upper back (posterior) have long since surrendered with flailing white flags and yielded possession of your shoulder girdle to the overpowering anterior nations. Precious landscape on your body has been conceded as terms of surrender to allow your body to continue functioning. Your head has migrated forward and south, your pelvis has traveled distant from it’s original position to bear the load and your feet have rotated apart to manage the new partitioning. In short, you’ve been conquered.

Lets apply some critical thinking at this point. If this describes to some degree what you see in the mirror, how logical would it be to further develop your anterior muscles (the already over powering force in your body)? Yet this is exactly what I see in 99.9% of athletic programs I critically evaluate. Please stop doing this. Your body is begging you.
What exercises should I focus on for improved athletic performance? The answer depends on how close you are to the initial goal of “neutral alignment”. If you are in good alignment then your body is prepared for any regime that is balanced and thoughtfully designed. If your body is still “out of phase” (mis-aligned) then you need to incorporate exercises that directly strengthen the weakened muscles in your body. Simultaneously it’s critical to avoid additional development of the muscle groups that are causing your body to drift further from it’s original blueprint. Next time you kneel down for that last set of .... ask yourself why? Will it strengthen a muscle group that will directly contribute to improved muscle balance throughout my body? Will it’s effect directly translate to improved performance in my sport? Will it overdevelop muscles that are already dominating within my musculature?

By considering our training’s impact on our body’s alignment (and therefore our functionality), we put ourselves in line for the best possible outcome.